The Exponential Power of “Local Search” for Firearms Marketers

Despite antiquated and punitive federal and state laws and progressive-lead social media platform bans, (Google, Bing, Facebook & Amazon) the sale of firearms follows a predictable path from firearm purchasers and 2’nd Amendment defenders who are painfully aware of these laws. When someone is looking to purchase firearms, they will either (1) follow a well engrained pattern and go where they typically shop, or (2) pull out their mobile device and type in one of a very low number of probable search terms such as, “guns near me” or gun shop or store near me”.

What is less understood is the growing power of “local search” to disrupt established patterns as well as direct the foot traffic of shoppers with immediate high purchase intent. While the gun stores and retailers that are allowed to sell firearms have historically been the primary beneficiaries of “local search” traffic, pattern disruption occurs when savvy firearm brands choose to step up their “local search” focus.

Harnessing the Power of “Near Me” for Firearm Marketers

According to Google, in the last two years “near me” mobile searches have grown over 500%. And yet, firearm marketers have been slow to embrace and adopt “local search” as a competitive advantage in driving sales. Instead of harnessing this growing power, the default mode of cutting checks for below-the-line marketing and advertising dollars to distributors and retailers is still the norm.

Retailers, gun stores and distributors all talk a good game when it comes to their savvy local-market and regional marketing plans. However, slotting allowances, digital and paper circulars, in-store point of sale materials, and similar store-specific marketing tend not to be very effective. Instead, it’s a great way to help retailers and distributors increase their own bottom line profitability without significantly increasing sales for firearm brands.

Alternatively, when a shopper searches for “[Your Firearm Category / Brand] near me,” they are declaring that they are interested in purchasing the very product you sell in the most convenient location to where they are standing when they tap that search term into their mobile device. 50 % of such shoppers will visit a store ready-to-buy within one day.

Instead of leaving to chance what happens next, firearm marketers have the opportunity to direct high-intent foot traffic to preferred gun stores and retail accounts – while also measuring the direct impact of your “local search” investments. In addition, this approach provides firearm marketers with the opportunity to tie-into inventory control systems, which give further path-to-purchase visibility and sales effectiveness analysis that is otherwise not provided by distribution partners.

Migrating Traditional Media Budgets to “local search”

Today, 87% of shoppers begin their product searches online, according to the latest research from Salesforce and Publicis.Sapient. Given that understanding, what percentage of your current budget has been allocated to “local search”? For most firearm marketers, this number is a rounding error, which means the exponential power of “local search” is missed and up for grabs in many lucrative markets.

Perhaps more interesting is just how little investment can produce an outsized return. This is because the “local search” category has been neglected for years despite its growing role in a shopper’s path to purchase.

“We’re seeing our clients achieve a return on their investment as high as 500%,” said Last Mile Retail EVP, James Gordon, who specializes in “local search”. “Many of our clients begin with small test budgets and then quickly ramp up when they can see a direct impact and positive ROI in the local markets where they invest.”

It’s not that traditional media should be ignored. Brand advertising plays an important role of generating awareness. In fact, when “local search” has been properly leveraged, there is a direct correlation between brand advertising efforts and an increase in search traffic.

One study by Google noted that “two-thirds of smartphone owners use their phones to learn more about something they saw in a TV commercial or in a printed advertisement” That’s because people are no longer passively watching, reading or listening to the radio anymore. They are actively engaging with their mobile devices and when they hear or see something that interests them, they tend to use their smartphone to take immediate action. You can see these trends for yourself when you overlay your search traffic with your traditional media schedule and see direct correlations in the search volume and traffic spikes. They key is to properly leverage “local search” marketing to ensure you are receiving the full benefit of your integrated marketing efforts.

Getting Started with a Simple Test Campaign

If you aren’t sure how effective your “local search” efforts are, the fastest easiest way to validate the power of “local search” is with a simple A|B test. Select two (or more) similar markets in order to track sales volume both on and off-premise. By holding a similar market as a constant (i.e. not changing anything you’re already doing now), you can see the direct impact a larger focus on “local search” delivers.

By selecting key firearm retailers, and other related accounts that you would like to dominate, you can deliver substantial increase in sales and be in a much better position to negotiate the additional support you require inside these key accounts. By further refining your “local search” efforts, you can tap into a growing trend that has largely been ignored; especially in the firearm market.

Armed with the data and a proven successful track record, you can begin to develop new approaches and “local market” models that support your desired growth. This allows you to have more control and influence over the “last mile” of the customer purchase decisions. Because, after all, doesn’t all your marketing and advertising efforts lead up to that most critical step in the customer journey? Where and what they buy matters and “local search” gives you the power to create substantial influence in these final moments that creates brand winners and losers when it comes to the final purchase decision.

Lastmile’s Local Motive™ firearms friendly platform localizes your existing website without disrupting your existing site or SEO. Integrate inventory systems to prevent out of stock issues and consistently calculate the local and online sales that each channel drives. Our scalable architecture allows integration to be done in weeks for any number of products and locations. Go live in as little as 4 weeks.

Platform Firearms Advertising Policies

Amazon Policy: prohibits the listing or sale of all firearms, including assault weapons, black powder guns, handguns, muzzleloaders, shotguns, rifles, and starter guns.

Facebook Policy: ads must not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives. This includes firearms, including firearms parts, ammunition, paintball guns and bb guns and ads for weapon modification accessories.

Google & Bing Policy: ads for functional devices that appear to discharge a projectile at high velocity, whether for sport, self-defense, or combat are not allowed. Examples: handguns, rifles, shotguns, hunting guns, functioning antique guns, airsoft guns, paintball guns, and bb guns.

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